Ideally, the rules are shared between households and mimic each other. When they’re not, the children generally are the first to let the parents know they get to do x at mom’s and not at dad’s and it’s up to the parents to attempt to reconcile the rules or not. Different rules around chores and computer time have much less of an impact than a parent’s withholding information from the other in what can turn into a sick game like withholding grades and report cards and recital dates and insurance cards.
The use of email communication and applications may nip the withholding game in the bud if the parties use applications and software such as Google calendar and scheduling software and scan and email promptly what should be shared documents. Effective co-parenting includes an organized and predictable method to share kids’ activities, track appointments, share assignments and schedule holidays and vacations. Some parents may be able to share information via phone and some may only be comfortable communicating via email. Regardless of the chosen communication though, any tool that negates arguments between parents that children are privy to is a bonus.
If I have learned anything in Judge’s interviews with kids in custody cases it’s first, that they are likely to say almost anything you will probably not be prepared for and second, they know exactly how to manipulate their parents in high conflict cases to get what they want. Clear communication between mom and dad without children in the middle is probably the cheapest and one of the best gifts divorced parents can give kids and each other.
Inasmuch as neither practitioners nor clients are naïve enough to believe that downloading an app will solve parental conflict, family lawyers may be wise to recommend their use to save both money and time in cases with low to mid parental conflict. For high conflict cases in which every text turns into a disaster, nothing beats therapy and a parenting coordinator, services parties can agree on between themselves or a Judge can Order if presented with sufficient information that meets statutory criteria. Also, as with all family cases, choice of counsel plays a role. Typically bombastic clients seek litigation happy lawyers. Conversely, clients who want a peaceful resolution will find lawyers who are skilled negotiators and pride themselves as such with no desire for protracted “custody battles” that carry a high price tag for clients and generally very little satisfaction for either parent (not to mention the child).
Kids are sponges. Parents are models. When parents have their own boundaries and are able to articulate what is acceptable behavior and what they won’t tolerate, they are able to teach the children to how to communicate what they need effectively to the family’s benefit. If it takes counseling to get there, so be it. Most of us could use a little help with a lot. Whether Post-Decree or post-breakup, the truth is parents are inescapably bound together by the children they conceived. What they do to fortify their new entity as parents who are no longer a couple, yet responsible jointly for the well being of their kids, is up to them. In the end, would you rather have happy kids or would you rather be right?